Craig Finn's voice was more gruff than usual during the Hold Steady's show at the Beachland Saturday evening, but no one seemed to care that much. After all, a Hold Steady arrival in Cleveland is always welcome news — the band's been selling out shows here for years — and with their new album, Teeth Dreams, set to drop in March, there was plenty to look forward to.
That new album features a third guitarist, which has been a regular feature of the touring show but not the album after the departure of keyboardist Franz Nicolay, and as the band has discussed in the leadup to the release, Teeth Dreams is a rock album in the vein of Foo Fighters. That's easy to tell from the single from the record, "I Hope This Whole Thing Didn't Frighten You," as well as the rest of the songs we previewed on an early stream. The sort of poppy hooks christened with Boys and Girls in America, and less so on Stay Positive and Heaven is Whenever (the latter of which Finn has said was a rough time for the band), have largely disappeared, replaced by roaring, pointed guitar riffs. A few of those tunes, including "Almost Everything" and "On With the Business," made the setlist Saturday evening.
As is almost always the case with new material, those songs were prime bathroom time for the audience, unfortunately. They sport the usual Finn tales of love and woe and boys and girls, but are buoyed by some of the rockingest riffs the Hold Steady have dreamed up in years. Admittedly, we would have liked to have heard "Big Cig" and "The Ambassador" too, but whatever.
That ongoing push in Teeth Dreams was born out in the rest of the setlist, culled from the usual favorites and tidbits from the Hold Steady catalog. While the encore dished out the big ones — "Chips Ahoy," "Constructive Summer," "Stuck Between Stations," etc. — the main course was served mainly from earlier albums —"Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night," "Multitude of Casualties," "Cattle and the Creeping Things" — and some songs not previously in the Hold Steady's regular choices that all harkened back to the sort of heavy rock ethos displayed in Teeth Dreams.
At times, that made Craig's voice hard to hear, but with the exception of the new cuts, everyone knew the words anyway and were happy to bellow along. It's hard to tell so early on how the loyalists will feel about the new material, but the three songs teased Saturday evening felt at home with the usual cuts that'll keep the United Scene coming back for whatever Craig Finn and company do next.